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With Bell out, Conner keeps rolling for Steelers

By
The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) fights to break free from the Cincinnati Bengals' Jessie Bates (30) during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, October 14, 2018. Photo by John Sommers II /UPI
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) fights to break free from the Cincinnati Bengals' Jessie Bates (30) during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, October 14, 2018. Photo by John Sommers II /UPI | License Photo

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not expecting All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell to return to the team this week, according to an ESPN report on Monday.

Bell reportedly told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler earlier in October that he intended to report to the Steelers during their Week 7 bye week, but he has apparently changed his mind.

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Bell has yet to sign his $14.5 million franchise tag with the Steelers, who have turned to James Conner in his absence.

Conner has started all six games at halfback for the Steelers. He rushed for over 100 yards and two touchdowns Sunday for the third time this season.

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"James just wants to put his hand in the pile and be one of the reasons why we win," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "He wants to prove that (he belongs)."

Conner ranks fifth in the NFL with 453 yards rushing.

"What a great game. Now I know it's (Conner's) last game for us, so we're glad he did well in his last one," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger quipped after Sunday's win, with media reports at that time saying Bell was reporting this week.

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Pittsburgh has been exploring trading options for Bell and has been asking a steep price, notably at least a second-round draft pick in addition to another a "good" player, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

For Bell to be traded, he would have to sign his franchise tender. That move must be done since the Steelers can't trade him until he is currently under contract.

"However it all shapes up, we know (Bell is) a player that can't be replaced, he's a special player," Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert said. "But any guy that we put in there will be a different type of player. Him and James are different type of running backs and they'll complement each other really well."

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If Bell isn't moved prior to the Oct. 30 trade deadline, the 26-year-old has until Nov. 13 to sign his tender in order to accrue a season toward free agency.

Bell struggled out of the blocks in 2017 before finishing the season with 1,291 rushing yards and 85 receptions for 655 yards. Bell was named All-Pro for the second time.

After being off this weekend, Pittsburgh (3-2-1) will host the Cleveland Browns in Week 8.

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--RB James Conner had his third 100-yard, two-touchdown game. Since 1970, only five NFL players have rushed for at least 100 yards and two touchdowns in three of their team's first six games of the season: Conner (2018), Chris Johnson (2010), Shaun Alexander (2005), Priest Holmes (2004) and Emmitt Smith (1995).

--WR Antonio Brown's 31-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown with 10 seconds left sent Pittsburgh to a 28-21 victory Sunday. Brown finished five catches for 105-yards and the one touchdown.

--QB Ben Roethlisberger is now 14-2 in his career at Paul Brown Stadium. He was 32-of-46 for 369 yards and a touchdown, good for a 100.7 quarterback rating on Sunday vs. the Bengals.

--RB Le'Veon Bell is not expected to report to the Steelers this week, as previously reported. Bell has yet to sign his $14.5 million franchise tag with the Steelers. He finished last season with 1,291 rushing yards and 85 receptions for 655 yards. Bell was also named All-Pro for the second time.

--WR JuJu Smith-Schuster caught seven passes for 111 yards on Sunday. The second-year pro leads the Steelers with 42 receptions for 561 yards and two touchdowns this season.

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